Treasure Inn (Wong Jing-athon 4)

I’ve been a little quiet on posting these last few days, shrugging off those blues again, but this week I have a stack of films to talk about.  We have a rather good thriller with supernatural overtones from Singapore; a classic “Fatal Beauty” from 1990’s Hong Kong; and the latest version of the ‘White Snake’ story to hit the silver screen.  But to start, I will end this little Wong Jing marathon with the latest release from our friend, and this time he wrote and directed the whole shebang.  Very much to my surprise, I had a huge amount of fun with it!

So, as I usually start, lets have a look at the plot of “Treasure Inn”.  Lowly Policemen Young Master (Nicolas Tse) and Brad (Nick Cheung) get caught up in a mystery involving the violent theft of a White Jade Statue.  Initially falsely accused of being the thieves, they join forces with two bandit sisters, Lady Fire Dragon (Yi Huang) and Lady Water Dragon (Charlene Choi), along with a lovelorn Doctor (Tong Dawei) to visit the titular Treasure Inn, a desert-based Inn famed for being the only place to fence stolen goods.  They are up against a gang of high class martial artists, a horde of bandits who prize the statue above all else, and the rather suspicious Police force who just don’t want any help.  On top of this a storm is coming…

This one Harks (see what I did there?) back to the Wuxia movies of the 1990’s, with lashings of mo lei tau comedy.  Everything is by the numbers really, the humour is slapdash, and occasionally more miss than hit.  Yet, it hits all the right notes – Characters to root for, villains to boo, a romance or two (some doomed, some not).  As it is a comedy, I can forgive it for the plot not really making sense (Why didn’t the bandit horde just go get the Statue themselves? Why is the Statue being taking to Treasure Inn, when there is no need to actually fence it?  What exactly were the Sisters doing in there cross-gender imprisonment and escape?).  I even laughed at most of the jokes (although I still think you can’t squeeze humour out of rape, and if you are going to poke humour at actresses breast sizes, at lest make it a decent visual)!

Nick Cheung is the real star here.  I only know him as the quite dark character from recent Dante Lam films, but he made his name in such comic roles, and even with the obvious humour of a pair of false teeth and a heightened sense of his own attraction, he has all the best lines, and frankly keeps the whole show going, with some nice support from Yi Huang.  Nic Tse on the other hand is pretty bland, partly because his character is so one-note – a sickening romance with Choi and an underdeveloped one with the hostess of the Inn really struggle to give the character the limelight.

The Action is actually pretty good, sure there is maybe a little too much CGI going on, but it counterpoints the humour well, and actually there are a couple of moments of gore and at least two “ouch” moments.  Sadly, the film is burdened with far too many bad guys, with too few of them getting any decent screen time, and for too much time is given over to the girl with the deadly lute.  But as a film that is paying homage to a golden era, with some modern trappings, I don’t think it is too badly done at all.  I even was able to spot a couple of spoofs and more serious homage’s going on, including a nice nod to “Wu Xia”.

So, surprisingly, I really rather enjoyed this.  It isn’t going to make any film of the year lists, and I doubt I would ever be bothered to watch it again.  But it was far from offensive, and as a Westerner, I found it far less impenetrable as many films of a similar ilk.  A little higher than mildly recommended.  Oh, and thinking about it, I do know what our bandit girls were up to, so I will apologise there!

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